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'Instead of Dry January let’s have Try January'

The Bar Man, by Jeff Hoyle, Friday, December 13, 2019

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, or so they say, and looking at the numbers out and about having a good time, maybe they are right.

The pubs have been advertising their Christmas menus since the summer and wherever you go, groups of people eating and drinking and generally having a good time.

The Bar Man column, by West Norfolk CAMRA's Jeff Hoyle, Friday, December 13, 2019
The Bar Man column, by West Norfolk CAMRA's Jeff Hoyle, Friday, December 13, 2019

Soon, Santa will call and a week later the chimes will sound for a new year and the same pubs that were so cheerful and welcoming will echo to the sound of tumbleweed blowing through the empty bar. Various charities will be exhorting us to go dry for January in the hope that those who take up the challenge will donate the money they save to some good cause.

How many actually do?

Meanwhile, I will be getting calls about pubs under threat and being asked what I can do to save them. As one landlord told me last week, dry January is fine, but don’t be surprised if it is followed by dry February and dry March as your village local is sold for housing.

So, here is an idea. Instead of dry January let’s have Try January. Not the scheme to encourage people to take up the triathlon, but instead try a beer or a pub that is new to you. It is probably good for you to monitor your alcohol consumption, but so is getting out of that rut and seeking new and different experiences. If you don’t know where to start, let me make a few suggestions.

Some of the best beers around are brewed at the Norfolk Brewhouse under the Moon Gazer brand. Look out for ones such as Jigfoot, which I last spotted in Marriott’s Warehouse.

The best selection of unfamiliar beer may well be found in the Nip and Growler, and although much of it is not cask conditioned, you can try a third of a pint which suits some of the stronger brews on offer. Ferry Lane Social Club has become much more adventurous in their beer selection, and I have an inkling that this is where my Try January idea originated. Rudgate Viking was on the menu last time I called, and the beginning of the year is the perfect time to join up if you are tempted.

Jeff Hoyle aka The Bar Man
Jeff Hoyle aka The Bar Man

Recently we attended a funeral down in Hertfordshire followed by Kempston Rovers v Dunstable (sad), and on the way home decided to try the Coach and Horses at Tilney. Some of the better Elgoods beer, and a fine steak were much appreciated, but what made the visit memorable was the football chat with the landlord and locals which was far more sensible, eloquent and informed than Radio Five’s 606 which entertained us on the way up.

I can’t guarantee that you will meet the same people, but it has to be better than sitting in front of the Dancing programme.

Traditional pub food is not your thing, explore the Mexican nights at the Rose and Crown at Harpley, which has been offering all you can eat for a tenner on Thursdays.

West Norfolk CAMRA have decided once again to have our annual Christmas meal in January, when bookings are easier and pubs need the trade, so why not join us on 14th January? Somewhere around the third week of January is supposed to be the most depressing day of the year, but it doesn’t have to be. Get out and about; try something new, even if it is a soft drink in a pub. Seize the season!

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